November 1, On This Day
One of the most interesting women in art, an LGBTQ icon, Nazi protester and feminist was born 132 years ago today, on November 1, 1889. German Dada artist Hannah Höch is best known as one of the originators of photomontage (a type of collage in which the pasted items are actual photographs, or photographic reproductions pulled from the press and other widely produced media).
Key themes in Höch’s works included androgyny, political discourse, and shifting gender roles. They created a feminist discourse surrounding her works, encouraging the liberation and agency of women particularly during the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), and even today.
She was also in a nine-year relationship with the Dutch writer and linguist Mathilda (‘Til’) Brugman.
Höch faced some discrimination from the male-dominated art society of the day, including the company of one of her first lovers, Raoul Hausmann, who was one of the initial members of the Berlin Dada movement. (Dada was an artistic movement formed in 1915 in Zurich, Switzerland, which rejected monarchy, militarism, and conservatism and was enmeshed in an “anti-art” sentiment, formed particularly as an after-effect of World War I.)
Interestingly, during World War II, Höch’s works were naturally tackled as “degenerate” by the Nazis, and she went into seclusion till the fall of the Third Reich.
Höch’s works created complex constructions of genders allow women to embrace both their masculine and feminine attributes, beyond the binary. This led to an intensified sense of individualism.
Many of her pieces also sardonically critiqued the mass culture beauty industry of the time, then gaining significant momentum in mass media through the rise of fashion and advertising photography. Höch made strong statements on racial discrimination, too.
She passed away on May 31, 1978.